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Post storm musings

Monday, November 5th, 2012

How did this happen? It’s November!
I know, I do this all the time, but seriously I have no idea how time gets away from me. A day or two passes, then it’s a week and then… So happy Columbus day, and Halloween and good riddance to Sandy. Hope you all are okay after the storm and that damage to your homes and communities are minor.
Our show in Brooklyn this Saturday was cancelled. We are sad to miss the chance to play with the amazing Suzie Vinnick. You would love her. Have a listen online if you are not familiar with her yet. That is the extent of Sandy’s impact on us. Wow, are we lucky! I recall the days of coming home to a tree on our roof and no power or water. At least it wasn’t cold. But I also remember sharing pulled together meals with neighbors and taking our guitars to the street to entertain folks and give them a reason to gather with each other. Those were really great days, so I encourage you to try and find the good in the hardship, embrace the folks around you, build community.
So this is what’s been going on with us; we did a northeast tour in September, met really wonderful people, ate a giant birthday macaroon made by my niece for my sister, saw a 1500 pound pumpkin, missed the pumpkin boat races, wrote a song at 1:00 am in an empty parking lot, went to Texas for a music conference and reconnected with “the elevens”, played our first show in our town, played a benefit and helped make some dough for a great non-profit called Dog Repair, met up with friends from Tokyo and Athens who were visiting the US, re-learned the art of bread baking.
Oh, and we started recording a new CD. It will be out in April.
Next week we head to upstate New York to a music conference. It is a good place to network, learn more about our business and our craft, be heard by folk enthusiasts, and hear great music. But it is also a great place to meet old friend, make new ones, and really bond with this community of vagabond players and amazing supporters. We are hosting a couple of music showcases on featuring all duos and one featuring other folks from the south. It’s nice to be able to introduce people we love to others and return the favor that so many people gave to us.
For the first time in many years I will not celebrate my birthday by eating my way through NYC. I will be home and I am not sure I am happy about that, but at least my clothes will still fit. We plan on hanging around Greenville through the end of the year.
In February we are going to Florida. I still need to fill in a lot of dates for this tour. You’d think that it would be easy since we used to live there. Nope. If you have any ideas or if you are interested in hosting a house concert ideas please let me know.
After the new CD is out, we will be touring like…. hmmm, I don’t have a metaphor or simile for that. We will be touring a lot; East Coast and Texas. Again, if you have ideas and suggestions (or the aforementioned metaphors and similes) I would be grateful.
I will be back in touch soon (well, I have good intentions) and will let you know about the progress of the new recording and fill you in more about those “elevens” that I mentioned.
I miss you guys!

The story of a traveling potato.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

I try to have a theme to these rambling writings. Gathering my thoughts, I wondered how I might tie together adventures in Cape Town and a game reserve in South Africa with a music and vacation trip to Georgia. Surprisingly the thing that unifies these experiences is the fact that I am lazy and unproductive.

City of Contrasts
We have had an exciting couple of months. You know we went to South Africa and I promised some pictures and stories. Cape Town is beautiful and rugged, developed and wild, breathtaking and heartbreaking. We hit a lot of the tourist list things… saw penguins on the beach, cape of good hope, table mountain, botanical gardens, national gallery, Robben Island, and a game reserve. We also did a few things off the tourist map; went to some of the townships, the District Six museum, played a gig. I thought I knew a bit about the history of South Africa, but visiting these sights made me feel incredible naïve and uniformed. Like the other contrasts that make up Cape Town, the evil genius of the architects of apartheid and the prevailing strength of the people of South Africa make the place amazing. If you want to know more just ask me, I would love to share a couple of stories.

The conditions in some of the townships were shocking to my western eyes; millions of people, families, in tin shacks without plumbing in communities with epidemic aids and tuberculosis rates. But the people were extremely friendly and open willing to share their experience. There are grass roots community programs that are significantly affecting the spread of aids. Folks are committed to education and overflowing with creativity. So many people with next to nothing were so willing to share with people who actually have nothing. I used to think I was community oriented, active and involved. I am a potato.

Wild Things
We went to the Aquila Game Reserve. An aquila is an endangered black eagle. We saw two. It was pretty luxurious place to stay. We took two jeep rides out into the reserve lands and saw a ton of animals – spring boks, james boks, eland, zebra, elephants, rhinos, hippos, ostriches, lions. We were charged by a water buffalo, they pack a punch. We saw a couple of lions having scuffle – loud and rough. We saw a couple of different lions mating – neither loud nor rough, and surprisingly fast. We saw a rhino peeing – a lot. There are also some animals in pens. It was odd and sad to see this after seeing their cousins out in the open. These leopards and lions had been rescued from farmlands and other spaces where they would be killed. We also saw baboons… not at the game reserve, just out on the highway.

Tamer Things
Back on familiar turf we played a wonderful show for GoOutdoorsUSA.org and got to meet their tireless volunteers and hear about the good work that they are doing. We used to live in north Georgia, so we really appreciate their dedication to keeping the area beautiful and wild. I have never actually helped with any of the physical work… as you already know, I am a potato. There will be another event with them in the summer that will give you the chance to roll up your sleeves and pitch in plus enjoy some music. I got a big surprise when my cousin Tony and his wife Maureen showed up. They live several hours away but just happened to be in the area! Aidan’s sister Siobhan was also in town so it was a bit of a family affair. We would have asked Siobhan to sing, although I know it would make my voice seem tiny and insignificant, but she had a bit of a sore throat.
The next day Aidan and Siobhan went scuba diving with the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium. There were manta rays, saw fish and black tipped sharks in the tank as well. I took pictures. (because I am a potato).
I spent the following day with Siobhan at the Carter Center in Atlanta. Neither of us had ever been there Jimmy Carter’s story is both interesting and inspiring. I never knew he gave up a coveted naval career working with nuclear submarines to return to Plains GA because he felt he could do more good for people. I didn’t know he got into politics only because he felt the local election process was corrupt. I didn’t know half of the work he’d done around the world since leaving the white house, such a rich life, with so much contribution to the world. It made me feel like such a…. well, you know.

The Fantastic Florida Tour

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

It’s been ten days since we got back from Florida. I should have posted some travelogue by now, but I have excuses.
1) I had a lot of unpacking and laundry
2) I injured my shoulder doing all that unpacking and laundry
Nothing serious, but I could barely move my arm for a couple of days and I could not even lift a cup of coffee (that part is serious). My sister, who lives 1000 miles away from me, hurt her shoulder on the same day,
And so, without further ado, Florida.
Yes, we played shows. Audiences and hosts were fabulous. We shared a show with The YaYas which was incredibly fun. I really thought we would have to separate Jay and Aidan. We did a couple radio shows On WMNF with Jeannie Holton and on WLRN with Michael Stock. Perhaps our appearance on the television program Studio 10 confirms that we are now folk stars. But you don’t care about any of that do you? the real story is all about the odd places we visited and the interesting people we met.
Let’s start with the folks we met on TV. They signed me up to be a potential bone marrow donor. There was a spunky young woman who had received chemo therapy which cured one illness and gave her another! Yikes. A bone marrow transplant saved her life. The donor was not a family member, not a friend or a friend of a friend. It was a total stranger and an unlikely match. Her story was pretty moving and I agreed to be on the bone marrow registry. All it took was a short form and a quick swab. Done. Want to learn more? www.BeTheMatch.org
We also met a park ranger pilot, a rock star, and a friend of lions, tiger and bears. Oh my.
Tom is a pilot for the National Park Service. Maybe that doesn’t sound that impressive to you. Did you know there is only a handful in the country? I didn’t know that. He just bought a uke, and he had a bottle of Malbec so we had a lot of common ground. Then we met the lead singer and songwriter from from The Shaprells. What? You never heard of them? Google it. When his wife heard we were musicians she told us the he was a singer. He never mentioned it. Then they came over to our campsite for a visit and she played us a few of his songs. He didn’t know she had them on her i-pod. I was busy getting my kind and supportive face on, but no need, The Shaprells rock! They were psychedelic rock just before it became popular, signed to Chess Records and pretty big in the midwest. And finally we met Andi at the Canoe Outpost. She is fun and energetic, drives a golf cart like she stole it, and volunteers at a wild animal refuge. She took us to see the lions, tigers, bears, lemurs, wolves and more at Elmira’s Wildlife Sanctuary. Some animals come from places can’t keep them anymore. Some are rescued from places that should not be allowed to have animals. We met an adult lion that had never had its paws on the ground before arriving at Elmira. www.elmiraswildlife.org

And as long as we are on the subject of animals, we had an armadillo at one of our campsites for a day, saw wild pigs, gators, and porpoises, and encountered buzzards which we were warned might try to eat our windshield wipers.
And of course we saw a couple of wacky places. Solomon’s Castle clad in tin from an old news press… you can still read some of the articles.

An odd statue of Beethoven compelled us to take a photo with our own Beethoven. I say its odd because it is in front of a housing community (I think) which is shaped a bit like pyramids. And there is a little sphinx in front of the Beethoven statue. You can’t make this stuff up.

We are off to Cape Town. Pictures and news when we return.

Winning Through Procrastination

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Its an unlikely title. Surely it makes you wonder if I will actually finish this installment.
Hi, I am Christine and I am a procrastinator. I am a great planner and a great starter. However, I finsh most things at the last minute fueled by panic and desperation. This week my procrastination was rewarded.

During the holidays, we usually give something to the folks that collect our trash, deliver packages and mail, etc. That’s one of my holiday responsibilities. I had a list, I had plans. On December 28 I had not done anything. DEcember 29 I finally got around to it. Today the trash collectors came by. I happend to be out back not terribly far from our bins. They guys seemed surprised, probably assumed I had forgotten them this year. I got a smile, a big wave, and… a little happy dance. Made my day. There were smiley faces on my mail! Score one for procrastinators everywhere.

I realized that this year has given me a lot of rewards for my lack of timely initiative. Last year’s January tour was pretty light, becasue I didn’t start booking early enough. So we ended up sharing a lot of shows. They were the best shows ever. In the summer I didn’t plan ahead enough to get ready for the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. So our friend John brought us a tent. And set it up for us. In the fall I neglected to make travel arrangements around the Cyclades and settled for staying on one island for a week. Turns out there was a ferry strike, plans would have been ruined we would have been disappointed. But no.. since we had no plans everything was fine.

My procrastination extends into the songwriting as well. I am nearly in a panic about the next cd project. But we were recently asked by a friend to write a song for his organization Go Outdoors USA. He asked that we use a phrase that I had shared with him months earlier along with my enthusiastic plans to use that phrase in a song “really soon”. I never used that phrase and so it was still around, waiting to be written. And now it is in a brand new song that will serve a purpose.

Go ahead. Procrastinate. Or maybe procrastiate tomorrow. You just might get a happy dance, kindness from folkies, a relaxing vacation, and a new song.

Happy New Year.

Ten Last Minute Holiday Gifts For The Musicians In Your Life.

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Throughout the year may of you have come to see us at shows, opened your homes to us, fed us, and been unbelieveably supportive of the creative path we have chosen. Thank You!! We can’t imagine a better gift.

But if you have other musicians in your life and you need one more hannuka gift, a stocking stuffer, or a table present, we have some thoughts. What’s a table present? This is one of Aidan’s family traditions. Everyone gets one last small gift on the the dinner table to be opend at the end of dinner. I’m guessing it was designed as a way to get the kids to behave through dinner. But its a fun tradition that we carry on.

So, here are ten affordable, easy to find gift ideas.

For the health and well being of a musician you love:
1) Infinity Bands – they are how I stay in shape on the road, small, light weight, easy to use.
2) Water bottle with built-in water filter, its a lifesaver.

For a little inspiration that may lead to a new song you love:
3) A volume of your favorite poetry. The language and the phrasing provide a lot of inspiration.
4) Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo. Interesting interviews by some great songwriters on their process, method, influence, etc.
5) A blank book and a nice pen. I know many folks work on a computer, but there is something special about the act of putting pen to paper.

To keep your favorite musician safe on the road:
6) A Flashlight. Comes in handy way more often than you’d think.
7) Tire Pressure Gauge. Obviously Aidan’s suggestion. It will help accidents (he says) and improve fuel economy.

A few tools of the trade to help your musican shine.
8) Capos. This is also Aidan’s idea. He can never have enough, full, short cut… different colors.
9) Strings. Also Aidan’s idea and I am pretty sure there are some tape wound accoustic bass strings under my tree right now.

Something that costs absolutely nothing but means a lot to your favorite musician:
10) Send out a short email to a few friends with a link to your musician’s web page or facebook music page.

Happy Holidays! We love you and we hope we will see you soon.

A Surprising Holiday Gift

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

I gave myself the gift of “no pressure to write songs”. Although Aidan and I try to always be writing, I thought that since we would be busy doing holiday stuff we should not really worry about writing songs this month. Not that he worries. I worry. I obssess. When we finish a song I am usually convinced that it is the last song I will ever write.
So this month, I have made cookies, hung lights, drawn and mailed cards, shopped, wrapped and decorated. And I was given the gift of a song.
I should explain that we have been working on a project that will result in a new CD. It is more specific and focused writing than we have done in a while. It has been more difficult than expected. I know that my brain has been slowly meditating on the ideas but I was not “working” on a song. And then Aidan played some notes, and I sang some words. Suddenly there was a song. I cleary see where the song came from. I understand the inspiration, and the path from inspiration to song. But I had never given this any active thought.

Hope you find some magic this holiday season.

Holiday Shopping While You Save The World

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I was writing up my holiday season to do list on the back of a junk mail envelope and I relealized it was Wednesday. Remember when I was doing a “World -Changing Wednesday” blog? Religiously. For three Wednesdays and maybe a Thursday? I barely remember it myself. But today I though we could revisit the concept with respect to gift giving.
I am not a scrooge. I like gifts, both giving and receiving. But I worry that we have gotten excessive, too hung up on quantity over quality. I would love to make every gift by hand, with lots of thought and individual attention put into each and everyone. But I have a life, and you do too.

Still I think we can shop and change the world. First, stay local if you can. Supporting locally owned stores keeps a greater percentage of dollars in your local economy. Second, consider purchasing things made locally or at least made in this country.
If you happen to live in Brooklyn, my friend Elissa has a fantastic store called Green in Bklyn on Myrtle Avenue. She carries lots of interesting, environment-friendly items. Several great gift items are made in Brooklyn such as beer-making kits, stuffed animals, cookbooks, and the cutest onesies you’ve ever seen.

On his facebook page my friend Jim Silar has chastized us all for our addiction to cheap crap from China. The usual rebuttal is that is difficult to find American made products. True, but here are a few that I will be giving this year:
Field Notes. These are great little notebooks perfect for gardeners, songwriters, etc… three blank books are only ten dollars. The come in blank, lined, or my personal favorite graph paper. www.fieldnotesbrand.com

Dancing Man Knives. I have a fondness for knives. Who doesn’t need a good knife. These are beautiful as well. www.local-showcase.com

Estwing Tools. I like hand tools. The other farmer prefers power tools, but you can never have enough of the basics. Still made in Illinois, they make a good hammer and are available at Home Depot or your local harware store.

Kentwool Socks. They claim to be the world’s best golf sock. Seriously? Can a sock make you a better golfer? Well, you know how those golfers are. They are made just down the road from me in Pickens SC. www.kentwoolsocks.com

Did you think I would leave out music? Please give the gift of beautiful music this year. Buying a CD from an independent musician is a great boost to their personal economy. Trust me a musician can do a lot with that small amount of money. If I started recommending folks I’d still be typing by New Year’s Eve. So here are two (unbelieveably hard to narrow down) recommendations. Carolanne Solebello used to perform with Red Molly so you probably already know her. But she is performing solo these days and not hitting the road quite as much so those of you outside of the northeast region might not have her outstanding CD yet. Dave Potts has a new live CD out and since he has hardly been touring at all I bet you don’t have it. Get both of those.

If you want to share the gift of Friction Farm music, we will sign, giftwrap and send a CD all for the regular CD price of $12. Just email me.

Go shop. Save the world.

The New Adventures of B&F Part 3 (the final installment)

Monday, December 5th, 2011

I will finally move on to other subjects after this post.
But first… tour food. I have always cooked on the road. Even when we toured in a car and stayed in hotel rooms I carried groceries, a little cooler, and an electric pan. I was the queen of one pan, twenty minute meals. I considered printing a small cookbook of these meals. We now have a tiny traveling kitchen, but I haven’t quite broken out of my old habits. Fortunately, we traveled through NYC. Its become a tradition to spend my birthday eating my way through the city. I visit a couple of favorites and old neighborhood haunts. This trip we hite Hudson Bagel, John’s Pizza, Crumb’s, and August. I had planned to have dinner at Mary’s Fish Camp but she was closed. August was a nice second choice. I know these places are not on everyone’s must visit list, but what does everyone know. I have heard conversation and read stories waxing enthusiastically about Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker, which is around the corner from my old apartment on Christopher Street. Magnolia is no Crumbs. I can make a cupcake as good as Magnolia. Crumbs is king. And everyone has their own favortie pizza place in New York. But if their favorite is not John’s they are just wrong.
Not all good food is in New York. My niece Melissa is enrolled in culinary school. She is specializing in pastry. She is awesome. One semester and she is making her own puff pastry dough… palmiers and tarte tatin to die for.

Cracker Barrel
What? All this talk about amazing food and I mention Cracker Barrel. Yup. I found out from my fellow RVers (doesn’t that have a nice ring to it!) that the very nice folks at Cracker Barrel allow campers to park overnight in their parking lot. How cool. So we tried it. Pulled up in Harisonburg Virginia and went inside to inquire. We were welcomed by happy friendly folks who said “sure you can park here over night”. We ended up doing this a few times. I am not a big breakfast eater, but figured the least we could do in return was get some coffee in the morning. Once in while, they just give you free coffee. Very cool.

Saltville
The final travel day was a great ending to a great trip. We had heard about another front yard art enthusiast. Directions to these places are always sketchy and we usually end up driving around a while and then asking directions. But it is extremely important to ask at the right place, and I know it when I see it. When you have a lot of spare time, ask me to tell you about getting directions to Shangrila North Carolina. In Saltville it is Duke’s Drive Inn. Directions went something like this; you go back through our little town, then turn right on the new road, you drive just so far and there’s an old railroad bridge off to the left, drive under that, it’s somewhere down there. Well, she was exactly right. I cannot explain how we knew which was the new road (it didn’t look any different) or how we knew how far “so far” was. But we knew. And we were richly rewarded. A person of obviously interesting character has created a small village alongside a small railroad track, complete with railcars, from mostly found objects. There are, I presume, sensors and triggers to make things such as helicopter blades spin and whirl as we pass by. There is a dog to greet us and tour with us. No other folks around.

So that’s it folks, the first travel adventures with the new crew. Next up, holiday shopping (while saving the world)

The New Adventures of Beethoven and Farnsworth (Part 2)

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

So this whole touring thing is supposed to be about the music and I haven’t mentioned that at all. But we did play some music. And it was extra special because it involved friends.
We played a Sunday afternoon show at the Peekskill Coffee House. Catherine from The YaYas booked this show for us. She’s nice. We are YaYa fans, is there an official catchy name for that? She and Jay came out to the show. Where was Paul? That is always the question. He says he is not avoiding me but it is too much for coincidence.
At the show we saw old friends (friends from a while back not friends who are old) Julie and Ken. In my brain they are still connected to Florida so it was a great surprise to see them in NY. Their beautiful daughter Frannie showed up in the middle of our set. Aidan notices her, and he looks a little troubled. I know that look. “Frannie, is that you?” She nods and smiles. “How is that possible?” You see Frannie was a kid when we met her. She is not a kid any longer. We have not aged at all but somehow, mysteriously, she is all grown up. I bet this has happened to you too. Aidan’s sister showed up too! with her son. He is now twelve but on that day he was a week shy of twelve.
After the show we showed of Beethoven. Thought the nephew was going to move in! Then we headed to Catherine and Jay’s for dinner. We hadn’t expected to have dinner, but if you show up she will feed you. Don’t try to fight it. She’s a really good cook, we should wrangle another invitation over there.
Then there was Nerfa, a music and hug fest, a gathering of 750 music makers and enablers, a place to get some business done while hearing amazing music and catching up with good friends. We hosted a little reunion of some of our fellow Kerrville New Folks: . In a tragic oversight I forgot to invite Arlon Bennett, I am still suffering from the guilt. We also hosted a night of duos: Ilyaimy, The Whispering Tree, The Twangtown Paramours, Adler & Hearne, and Wool & Grant. WE have some very talented friends. We were also given oportunities to play by Open Ears House Concerts, AcousticMusicScene.com, Ripton Coffeehouse, Listen Live Music, and Bat Kat’s Who Dat. We also have generous friends!
We played a songwriter night in High Falls, sharing the night with folks who writer great stuff that is nothing at all like the songs we write. Some fancy picking, some very timely themes, some tape looping… a fun night. And we made music all night at Gzizi’s in the west village With Olinde Mandell and Meg Braun. So much fun made even better because we shared it all with friends.
So in parts 1 & 2 I got to music, friends, and foam. On to food and more roadside oddities
The adventure continues in Part 3…

The New Adventures of Beethoven and Farnsworth

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

A tale of friction farm, foam, food, and friends.

Yes, I said I’d write this a week ago. You know I can’t be trusted.

For fans of “On The Road With Ned and Pinky”, fear not. Trusty Ned (our Subaru Outback) and emotional Pinky (Ned’s friend the pig shaped finger-puppet) are fine and healthy. But for longer trips we felt we needed something a little bigger, a little homier.
Beethoven is our new (well new to us anyway) Chevrolet/Roadtrek camper-van. Yup, camper-van Beethoven. Go ahead, collectively groan now and get it over with. Because Beethoven is a bigger vehicle, he needs a bigger side-kick. Enter Farnsworth the bull.

Our first trip was to New York in November. Who’s great idea was that? We were awfully lucky with the weather. Heading north through Virginia there were
still some autumn colors. I started a song as I crossed the James River. It seemed like a good one, but it remains unfinished. As I said earlier, I can’t be trusted. Some traveling troubadours make efficient use of their travel. They map out a nice direct route from point A to point B. I seek out roadside or front lawn oddity and adventure. That may be half the reason we tour. Don’t tell Aidan.
Foam

As we crested a hill on Route 11 near Natural Bridge in northern Virginia, Aidan and I gasped as the same moment. (It’s okay, we’re married now). Emerging ahead of us on a hillside was Foam Henge! It is exactly what you think it is. Stone Henge recreated in foam. Big. Painted. With signs and stuff. It is free, without much fanfare, just a dream realized by a man named Mark Cline in a few weeks’ time. Worth seeing. Seriously.

But on the way there we had an odd experience. We pulled off the road into the small parking lot of a small building to have a snack. The house next door was covered with buzzards (or maybe vultures?). At least two dozen big, creepy, birds sitting on the roof line. I am pretty sure there must have been a dead
body in there. Right? Aidan insists they might just be the local birds, or migratory. Whatever. He refused to knock on the door.

An Environmental Side Note

The big van gets ridiculously bad gas mileage. It was hard for us to justify this. However, we never need to stop at a hotel. So the big pile of cleaning chemicals they would use cleaning a room after we stay there for just one night has been saved. We find that we are more conservative with resources like water and gas
(for heat and hot water) when we are in the van. Hopefully this evens out. Aidan would like you to know that properly inflating our tires improved our gas mileage nearly 2 miles per gallon.

The adventure continues in Part 2…